Knitting with Icelandic Yarn

  • Tips and trick for knitting an Icelandic Sweater

    0 comments / Posted on by Sigga Arnars

    Tips and trick for knitting an Icelandic Sweater

    Here’s a confession.
    The first time I knit a traditional Icelandic sweater, lopapeysa, it was a total disaster!

    I had no idea that there was more to it than simply knitting it. So after I had woven in the last end, and grafted the underarm on the wrong side leaving an ugly, bulging seam, I laid it down to admire it. Laying there, staring back at me, was this crumpled up, uneven and frankly ugly looking thing. After all this effort and all those hours knitting this was a huge disappointment!

    Thankfully my fiancé, who this garment was made for, was aware of all my hard work so he pretended to love it. He has yet to admit that he doesn’t and he still uses it, to my great shame. I called my friend who is a very skilled knitter, almost in tears, to ask for advice. She told me to soak it for a long while and then gently pulling on it before laying it flat and finally pressing it once dry. So naturally I dipped it in water for a few seconds and then frantically stretched the bejeezus out of it! Thank goodness Icelandic lopi yarn is so forgiving, so I didn’t break the yarn and ruin the whole thing!

    This horrible mistreatment of the garment did help some, and it ended up looking… well, a little better. I wish I could take a picture and show you guys, but again, the Icelandic wool is so manageable that it evens out over time with washing and wearing, so today it just looks like a normal, old, outworn lopapeysa.

    After this traumatising experience I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again the next time I made an Icelandic sweater, so I made sure to leave a lot of slack on my floats. (A float is the string of yarn carried on the back of the garment while knitting in a different color) Of course I ended up overcompensating so much that all my stitches were loose and hanging, and it was hard to put on the sweater without getting tangled up in there.
    (This is salvageable by gently pulling each loop, gathering the extra yarn together, and then weaving it in like you would when finishing.)

    After those two first impressions of knitting an Icelandic sweater I decided I just couldn’t do it. So I avoided making them at all cost. I did regularly see new designs that were oh so pretty and I desperately wanted to make, but obviously I was incapable of knitting colorwork so I just admired them from a safe distance.

    Recently I was at my favorite local yarnstore, drinking coffee and knitting with a group of experienced knitters and the topic of knitting a yoke came up. I told them my horror story and they proceeded with drowning me in advice for avoiding these problems.

    As soon as I got home I cast on one of those designs I have been longing to make and could’t wait to get to the yoke to try them out.
    I noted down what worked well for me, and today I am sharing it with you guys

    As established above, my biggest problem was the tension. I got a lot of advice on how to try to fix that, but there is one that stands out and worked perfectly for me.
    Ok, are you ready? Knit the yoke inside out!
    Are you confused? I was confused. I tried purling the stitches, knitting in the wrong direction and knitting like I would normally. None of that worked. Finally I figured out that it’s not enough to turn the work inside out, you have to turn it away from you as well. So you’re knitting just like you normally would with the right side facing you, but when the right side is on the inside of the garment you need to hold it away from you as shown in the photo below.

    When working the stitches like that they naturally line up on the needle as they will on the finished product, so there’s no need to leave extra slack or constantly pull on the stitches.

    If you’ve knit colorwork chances are you’ve had the problem of uneven stitches making the pattern look messy. There’s a simple solution to that!
    Before you start the colorwork you need to decide what color you want to have as the main color. This color will stand out and be more visible while other colors will be in the background.
    If you are like me and have the memory capacity similar to a shrimp write it down! This is the key to even looking and neat stitches when working with more than one color.
    What you need to do is to always hold your main color at the bottom. If you are holding one thread at a time and picking them up as you knit them, you need to make sure that you alway pick up the main color from the bottom and the rest of them from above the main color.
    If you manage to keep this consistently throughout the whole project you will end up with a very tidy looking yoke!

    I hope this has been helpful, I will keep you posted on any future tips I come across and work for me. Also, if you know of one please share it with me in the comments section!

    Happy knitting!

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  • It's all about the heel !

    0 comments / Posted on by Sigga Arnars

    My son needed warm socks for preschool, so naturally I started digging through my stash looking for sock yarn and then I went ravelry browsing (what else?).
    Yes, I have a million sock patterns, and yes I have made enough socks to not need a pattern at all, but I’m always looking to learn something new and exciting when it comes to knitting.
    After a few hours browsing (yes, a few hours. Ravelry is sort of a black hole with endless amount of wonderful designs. I’m sure you’ve all been there) I ended up using a pattern I had in my library and have made a few times before.

    I knit them top down and after finishing the heel flap I started thinking how much I hate this way of making a heel. The whole picking up stitches and having extra ends to weave in just sounds like a lot of extra work to me, and besides, it leaves a ridge on the inside of the sock that can’t be comfortable for busy little feet who run around all day long. I figured there must be a simpler way to do this!
    So I ripped out the heel flap and started googling. After a surprisingly short time I found a tutorial for a short row heel. It’s a very clever construction where first you knit the heel flap back and forth while making the short rows and then you knit back and forth again closing the short rows. Simple enough right?
    Well, anyone who has used short rows in their knitting knows about those dreadful gaps they leave where you make a turn. However these instructions promised it was a no wrap, no gap, easy breezy method. It almost sounds too good to be true! I had to try it.
    I was using 5 needles and had my stitches evenly divided between 4 needles, so what I did was to knit the heel using just two of them. I made my short rows until I had a quarter of the stitches left and then proceeded to close the gaps using the method described. The way to do it is to knit to one stitch before the first gap, slip that stitch, make one by picking up the yarn between your slipped stitch and the next one and knitting those two together with a slip slip knit. You then turn, slip the first stitch and purl to the first gap on the other side, slip, make one and purl those two together (If you are a continental knitter like myself, make sure to move your working yarn to the front of your work while slipping purls). Keep doing this until you have closed all the gaps.

    This method makes a beautiful heel with a nice shaping that hugs the heel. I really liked the construction of it but it did leave some gaps. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I followed the instructions precisely and still had some gaps. Anyone who has ever been to England knows one should always mind the gap!
    So off to youtube I went looking for a better way to use this construction. I found a video tutorial that uses a very similar approach, but when closing the gaps they would knit to one stitch before gap, knit that stitch together with the next live stitch, then make one and knit it before turning the work and slipping the newly made stitch. On the wrong side they would do the same thing but obviously purling two together and purling the new stitch.
    This method left me with the same construction, but the gaps were a lot neater.
    I am a continental knitter so I tend to stretch out my purls a bit, so on the knit side there were no gaps but on the purl side there were tiny ones. It’s entirely my fault, and I’m thinking I might have to start practising throwing my yarn for neater looking purls. (Or I might start using the portugese purl, although the whole wrapping the yarn around your neck seems a bit tedious to me).

    I think I’ll try using the Japanese short row technique for my next pair of socks. That one may be a little extra work, but it has never left me disappointed.
    For those interested here is a link to the first tutorial I followed, and here is a link to the video instructions for the second one and here is the pattern I used for this project. I made the child size but the sizes go from newborn to adult large.
    Happy knitting!

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  • Knit a Warm Icelandic Sweater

    0 comments / Posted on by Birna Halldórsdóttir

    One of the most distinctive sweater styles in the world is the Icelandic sweater.  These sweaters are unique in style and material, making them both warmly functional and beautifully fashionable.

    Icelandic sweaters are usually knit seamlessly on circular and double-pointed needles.  A crew neck tops a round yoke which is knitted with color patterns. The patterned yoke covers the shoulders as well. A body and sleeves spring from the bottom of the yoke and are usually hemmed with ribbing for good fit.  The body and sleeves are often solid-colored, although sometimes a small overall pattern is used.   This classic style means your sweater will look good year after year.

    Wool is the fiber of choice for a genuine Icelandic sweater.  Lopi is a lofty, loosely-spun yarn made from the wool of Icelandic sheep.  Léttlopi yarn is half the weight of Álafosslopi.  The former is used for indoor sweaters (gauge is 18 stitches to 10 cm (4 in.) in stockinette stitch) while the latter is ideal for outdoor sweaters.  This yarn is soft and water-resistant, like the hardy sheep from whence it came.  The Icelandic sheep’s double-layered fleece is adapted to a harsh outdoor climate;  a fine inner layer of soft wool accompanies a coarser outer layer which sheds water.  Your Lopi sweater will help you adapt to winter just like the Icelandic sheep.

    To begin a Léttlopi sweater, use a circular needle large enough to hold all the body stitches.  The bottom ribbing is followed by the body, done in plain stockinette stitch.  At the armholes, a few stitches are put on holders at each side for the underarms.  Two sleeves are then knit from the ribbing to the underarm on double-pointed needles, again placing underarm stitches on holders.  The sleeves and body are then joined on one long circular needle, excepting the underarm stitches.  The yoke color patterns begin, with the knitter working in rounds through the shoulder and upper body, decreasing at intervals until the neckline is reached.  The sweater finishes with a ribbed band at the neck.  The underarm stitches are then grafted together on each side to complete a seamless sweater.

    Léttlopi yarn is often used in neutral colors to make handsome sweaters in shades of brown or gray.  The yarn can also be dyed in any fashion color, so you can knit an Icelandic sweater in your favorite color combinations as well as the traditional neutrals.  Make your first sweater following a pattern or using a kit with the yarn included.  Once you are familiar with the style of knitting, you may design your own sweater with colors of your choice.

    Yarn, knitting patterns, and ready-to-wear sweaters are available from authentic Icelandic suppliers such as The Icelandic Store.  Knitters in any country can enjoy this distinctive style from a beautiful island nation

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  • Almost Gnótt

    0 comments / Posted on by Birna Halldórsdóttir

    I love Icelandic sweaters.  Love them.  Where I live, I can only wear them on the very coldest of days as outerwear, but I love them anyway.  When I saw the Gnόtt sweater, I knew I had to make it.  It's available as a kit in lovely gray, black and white.  But I don't wear neutral colors, even if the sweater is gorgeous.  So I changed the colors, and was really excited when my package of blue, navy and pink yarn arrived.
     I had never used Plotulopi before.  It's a single-ply unspun yarn wound into large discs, or plates.  Being unspun, it's fragile and tears easily, but splices just as easily if needed. This pattern calls for using it double, and I found it easiest to gently hand-wind two plies together into a ball. 

     After making chart changes to avoid stranding 3 colors, I cast on for the first sleeve.  I was overly gentle on the first try, and my cuff was much too loose.  Second try cuff came out perfect, but now my colorwork gauge was too tight.  Instead of ripping back and possibly shredding the yarn, I used the sleeve as a second gauge swatch, as the bottom of the sleeve would still fit.  Two needle sizes up and success!

    Well, close to success.  I got stitch gauge, but now my row gauge was too large.  No problem for the body and sleeves, but my yoke would be too long.  So I had to eliminate enough yoke rounds so it would fit.   A little harder than the body/sleeve chart changes, but doable. 
    I finished both sleeves and decided to make the main body plain instead of matching the lice pattern in the sleeves.   Although the pattern did not call for it, I did a few short rows across the back right after joining the body and sleeves,  to raise the back neck a bit for wearing comfort. 

    Once the short rows were finished, the yoke progressed rather quickly.   Because of the delicacy of the yarn, I opted not to carry the unused colors and wove those ends in instead.  I used a different yarn to sew the underarms and folded neckband, as I found Plotulopi impossible to sew with, even double-stranded. 

    Next decision was to block or not.  I wanted to even out the stitches but was a little afraid of possibly felting my sweater.  I need not have worried.  Putting the sweater through a cold soak-spin cycle evened out the knitting without any felting issues, and I patted the sweater into shape, letting it dry over a few days, flipping it over once or twice.

    Finally done!   I'd pick a lighter or brighter blue for my main color if I did it again, but am very happy with it.  It's very light for a bulky knit and airy-soft.  My finished sweater is a bit oversized but nice for outerwear, which is how I will wear it anyway.   Can't wait for a cold day!

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  • Wool does not change: how it is knitted does

    0 comments / Posted on by Birna Halldórsdóttir

    We all know that wool yarn is warm but it is only after working with Icelandic wool yarn that you realize that all wool is not the same. The major characteristic of wool that makes it highly marketable is its nature. Wool is a natural fiber and just like cotton and silk, has the ability to be warm and keep the skin breathing at the same time. As the seasons change, we seek fabrics that will help us to get by without forcing us to lose our individuality. Icelandic wool has been used since the dawn of the 8th century and its functionality and superior qualities has made it a timeless fashion raw material.

    Wearing clothes should not be a burden and that is why we go about our daily activities oblivious of the fact that we have clothes. When it comes to Icelandic wool yarn the sweaters made out of it are not only warm but of low weight. These are classic pieces to be worn during the winter but how cool is it that you can wear a heavy sweater without actually feeling like you are wearing one. With Icelandic wool yarn, it is possible to have an indoor garment made of wool, an outdoor garment made of the same material and still maintain the suitability of the various occasions.

    The colors of Icelandic wool yarn have evolved with the time and it is no longer reserved to the neutral colors. Whatever color of sweater you want to wear, you will always find it in the color you want. If not, then you will find it in a color that you can mix and match with.

    Accessories like scarves do not have to be made of silk as the main material. Did you know that you can now find a light shawl that is made of wool? There are Icelandic wool yarn types that are single ply and very fine. Using them in their natural state results in the classy lacy garments though we could also blend them with heavier types to produce a heavier garment.

    While our great grandparents used their hands to produce virtually everything they used from food to clothes, technology has made life easy for us today. Technology has made it possible for us to select designs of the Icelandic wool yarn sweaters we want and even pay from the comfort of our homes. It is true that when you want something done perfectly, do it yourself but not with lopi wool products.

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